Family feuds can create ripples of waves, which keep relationships turbulent for generations. The infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud began in Kentucky in 1865 when Asa Harmon McCoy, brother to Randolph McCoy died at the hands of the “Logan Wildcats,” a local militia group which included William Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Anse” (There’s a clue!). Asa served in the Union Army, so Anderson and his militia felt within their rights to shoot him as an enemy combatant. As years passed the bitter seed grew, and land disputes, stolen livestock and other criminal activities resulted in murders and retaliatory murders. Young and old Hatfields and McCoys perished due to unresolved anger and misplaced pride passed from generation to generation like an heirloom quilt.
God inspired Obadiah to deliver a rebuke and warning to the people of Edom because of a generational feud between them and Israel. Edomites, the descendants of Esau, carried hatred about his stolen birthright for centuries and acted towards Jacob’s descendants accordingly. Since Obadiah shares no point of reference about his credentials or origins, scholars can make a best guess that he lived during Elisha’s time and served as one of the earliest prophets around 840 B.C. His economy of words is a message itself as to the intensity of God’s anger.
The sins Edom committed are recounted in this short book. Obadiah tells us that the mildest behavior they demonstrated was to turn their backs on their brothers when Israel faced enemy invasions. Their worst sins are far more egregious. When Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem, not only did the Edomites not offer refuge to the Israelites fleeing the city, they murdered them on the roads and pathways where they fled to escape the conquering armies.
God is blunt throughout Scripture about how he will deal with those who mess with his people.
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”
“… when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land…” Joel 1
“And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” Zechariah 12:9
For the Edomites, their judgments are specific and harsh:
“But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged! All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. In that day, declares the Lord, will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, men of understanding in the mountains of Esau? Your warriors O Teman will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter. Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”
Why does God laser in on the “wise men of Edom?” The answer lies in verse 3.
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”
The Edomites carried a grudge for centuries. They took pride in it along with their geographic positioning in the mountains. In every way, they felt themselves to be superior to Israel, yet Israel inhabited the promised land, not them, and they couldn’t abide that. They obviously rejoiced and felt justified in murdering fleeing Israelites just like the Hatfields and McCoys.
Pride is usually at the root of unresolved feuds. I knew a church in which battles erupted over a stained-glass window that needed to be moved for a building project. The church designated a new home for the window, in the addition, but some in the congregation who opposed the project, weaponized the window’s history. Without consulting the church, these folks lodged a complaint with the town’s historical society. Their move never gained traction but did generate uproar and divisions in the church.
I know families whose holidays and special occasions are marred consistently by unresolved hurts between members. This one can’t sit by that one, and we will purchase gifts for this one’s children but not for that one and blah, blah, blah. There may be valid reasons why some of these feuds start. Jacob performed a wicked, deceitful act when he tricked Esau out of his birthright. That is not the way God wanted to convey the promised blessing to Jacob. Esau’s feelings of anger and betrayal were valid. One wonders if he rehearsed them over and over to his family before he eventually forgave Jacob and reconciled with him. (Genesis 33) Although Esau forgave Jacob, his legacy of bitterness remained unresolved in his family and many murders and other sinful acts occurred because of it.
I see several key lessons for us in this first portion of Obadiah:
The bitterness you harbor today will sow seeds that can reap a terrible harvest for generations to come.
When God blesses someone else with something we’ve longed for, we need to trust him to know what is best for us and not poison our souls with jealousy or anger. We can always choose righteous reactions in response to sinful behaviors against us.
Pride is rebellion in God’s eyes but cherishing pride as a trophy sin and passing it on to others, is going to produce dire consequences.
The division between the Edomites and Israelites resulted in death, slavery and captivity for many descendants and rendered Israel a powerless nation for centuries. I wonder how many churches and families are unable to move in kingdom authority and power for the same reason?
Lamp and Sword
****Resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
Read the following verses and then ponder these questions:
Does God still feel this way about the Jews even though many rejected and still reject the Messiah?
Do his judgements against their enemies still hold?
Where does God land on all this concerning the bride of Christ and her enemies? (These verses you’ll need to search out for yourself.)
God’s love for Israel – I Kings 10:9, Deut. 7:6-8, Deut. 14:2, 2 Samuel 7:23-24, Psalm 105:8-15, Zech. 2:8
God’s judgement on her enemies – Genesis 12:1-3, Joel 3:1-2, Ezekiel 38:1-23, Zech. 12:9, Romans 11:1-36